82nd TRW commander bids farewell

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. O.G. Mannon
  • 82nd Training Wing
It's hard to believe that it's already time to move on. Though Barbara and I are looking forward to a new assignment and new opportunities, a part of Team Sheppard and North Texas will stay with us wherever we go.

As our time with Team Sheppard winds down, it's important to look back at what we've accomplished together.

Back in July 2008, we set three major goals. The first was to continue to deliver highly qualified, technically superior warrior Airmen.

Over the past 23 months, the 82nd Training Wing has trained and delivered about 160,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines to our combatant commanders in the field.

To put that number in perspective, that's roughly half of the total active-duty Air Force. It reminds us that serving in this wing is a tremendous privilege and honor. There are few, if any, assignments we could have with so much potential to impact the future of our Air Force.

Our second goal was to expand our focus so that Airmen left here not just with the necessary technical skills, but also with the skills they would need to succeed in combat and in life.

To do that, we have transformed the Warrior Weekend program so that every Airman trained at Sheppard leaves with some basic warrior skills, such as handling a weapon, setting up cordons, identifying unexploded ordnance and self-aid and buddy care. We also laid the foundation for an improved combat fitness program that prepares Airmen to work in a deployed environment.

Our final goal was to improve the quality of life and force protection status of the base. We have added critical defense measures at our gates and taken steps across Sheppard to improve our force protection status.

The most important force protection device on any base is the people who live and work on it, and we have worked hard to transform Sheppard into a base that functions like an operational base. We have greatly improved our readiness through exercises and inspections, and you have performed exceptionally well. The progress we have made in this regard is incredible.

We've also worked hard to improve the base. We have spent more than $5.3 million improving our dormitories and $16.8 million on other facilities. We've also spent almost $16 million on aging critical infrastructure, like water lines, roads and sewer systems.
With the renovation of the Solid Rock Café and the construction of the outdoor pavilion, we've laid the foundation for a Student Campus area that will provide an outstanding, safe learning environment for our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.

We've also worked hard to support our partners at the 80th Flying Training Wing by spending almost $9 million on airfield improvements, and later this fall the first phase of the new Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program operations facility.

There is still a lot of work to be done of course--many of our facilities are 20, 30 or 40 years old. But we have made a lot of progress on problems that have persisted for years.
The old adage goes that plans never survive first contact with the enemy, and so it is for me--circumstances and events meant our goals and plans evolved over the course of my tenure.

The event that occupied our attention for much of the past 18 months was the Unit Compliance Inspection we completed in February. We always strive for excellence, of course, but we can be proud of our performance in the inspection given where we started. Many of the issues noted by the Inspector General were based on a lack of documentation during the time between the Operational Readiness Inspection in 2006 and when we began our preparations--things, in other words, that were beyond our control. But we laid a solid foundation for those who will follow us, to ensure that next time around the wing will be recognized as the excellent unit it truly is.

The conclusion of the A-76 study in 2009 was another difficult time for all of us, but thanks to outstanding work by our civilian personnel experts, we managed to get through it with only having to separate two of the more than 200 people affected--a remarkable feat.

We also had to begin dealing with the reality that the 882nd Training Group is relocating enlisted medical training to Fort Sam Houston. We've worked hard to bring new missions to Sheppard, and we're beginning to see those efforts bear fruit. We know that the new Non-Commissioned Officer Academy will open here this fall, and we are also relocating courses currently being taught at some of our detachments back to Sheppard. The Metals Technology Course is slated to begin this summer, and an expanded Explosive Ordnance Disposal introductory course should also begin this year. Sheppard is also under consideration for other new missions, and decisions on those are expected later this year.

These were just a few of the challenges we faced, and I am proud of the fact that we emerged from all of them not just intact, but stronger. With hard work, we turned weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities. That is a testament to the great people who work here--thank you for all you have done.

Our time at Sheppard has been amazing. Barb and I are so grateful for the opportunity to serve here. It was a privilege to work with our young Airmen each and every day and to absorb their energy and enthusiasm. It was also an honor working with the amazing men and women of the 82nd Training Wing and the 80th Flying Training Wing. The future of our Air Force is in your hands--and they are very good hands indeed.